Title: Sarah's Key
Author: Tatiana De Rosnay
Published: June 2007
Published By: St. Martin's Press
Format Read: Ebook, Kobo
Genre: Historical Fiction
Date Read: December 23 2015
10 year old Sarah had a happy childhood growing up with her younger brother in the city of Paris. But things would never be the same again after the summer of 1942. Life began to change when prohibitions against Jewish people were set in place. She and her family could no longer enjoy many of the things they used to. Or go to the places they once loved. Then they were required to wear yellow stars on their clothing. She didn’t understand why people had begun to treat them differently. Then late one night her family was awoken to loud bangs on their door. At just 4 years old Sarah’s brother was scared so she convinced him to hide in their secret cupboard until it was safe for her to let him out. Little did they know that Sarah and her parents would be arrested that night and taken away from their home. Known as the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundups, Paris’ Jewish residents were arrested by the city’s own police force and kept in a local arena before being sent off to concentration camps. It marks one of the darkest events in the country’s history.
Meanwhile in present day Paris, Julia Jarmond, a journalist is given the task of reporting on the 60th anniversary of the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundups and her research would lead her to uncover a dark family secret.
I am always a little bit apprehensive when reading a book about the holocaust. I anticipate them to be long, heart wrenching stories that often leave terrifying images in my mind, long after the last page. In the case of Sarah’s Key, it was just as heart wrenching as I expected. However it wasn’t a long as I thought it would be. At only 293 pages, I flew through this story. It was a real page turner in that I just had to find out what happened to Sarah.
The dual time periods carried the mystery of Sarah and her family throughout the book. It was as interesting for me to read of how Julia uncovered the mystery through her research as it was from Sarah’s point of view. Although I admit I was a little bit disappointed that this dual time period didn’t carry on throughout the entire book.
De Rosnay’s comparison of pre-arrest Sarah and present day Zoe (Julia’s daughter) really showed a change in time and maturity over the years. At 10 years old Sarah was a sheltered child, who enjoyed playing with her dolls. Meanwhile modern day Zoe, at 11 carried herself with more maturity and responsibility of a teenager.
I had some trouble relating to Julia and the decisions she made. Her character was very troubled, but I did sympathize with her and the course her life was taking.
As mentioned in the book, the Vel d’Hiv’ roundups of 1942 isn’t really acknowledged by many Parisians. In fact many of the city’s residents don’t even know it happened. The fact that this author tackled such a topic, makes this book a very important piece of literature.
Overall I thought Sarah’s Key was a solid read with a story that needs to be told. I would recommend it to people who are interested in learning about the holocaust, especially with a Paris setting. This would also make for a great book club choice, as it will open a lot of opportunities for discussion.